Merkel: Germany must speed up processing asylum applications, fight right-wing extremism

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says asylum applications must be processed more quickly to send back persons who were denied the status, adds that Germany must take a hard line on right-wing extremism.

BERLIN, GERMANY (AUGUST 31, 2015) (REUTERS) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday (August 31) called for an acceleration of the asylum application process for the thousands of refugees arriving in the country every week.

“It is a question of asking who has a high chance of being able to stay and who has very little chance. These applications must be decided quickly and then people must be quickly sent back to their countries of origin – especially to the countries of the western Balkans,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin at an annual news conference known as her “summer interview”.

Merkel said she was worried about extreme right-wing views becoming more wide-spread in the country following a spate of violent anti-refugee protests and attacks on refugee shelters.

“What bothers me is that we are seeing this hatred, this atmosphere in our country and my response to it is emphatic: a clear line must be drawn — there can be no excuses,” she said. “We cannot show a trace of sympathy: no personal experience, no historical event, nothing at all can justify such behaviour.”

She added that in some areas of the country right-wing extremism seemed to have become less taboo, saying that Germany must fight this development decisively.

On the wider European response to the refugee crisis, Merkel said a joint approach was important to take the pressure off countries on the front line at the European Union’s borders.

“There is a high level of agreement that the burden on Italy must be reduced. We cannot say that Italy must keep all of the refugees who arrive there just because they have come over the Mediterranean. The Dublin Agreement no longer works in the way it once did because the situation has changed,” she said.

The Chancellor repeated her call for a fair distribution of refugees across the bloc, warning that a failure to agree on this could have ramifications for the integrity of the borderless Schengen Zone.

“If we are unable to agree on a fair distribution of refugees within Europe, then some people will start to call Schengen into question,” she said.

More than 300,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean this year, including nearly 181,500 arriving in Greece and 108,500 in Italy, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

On the continuing crisis in Ukraine, Merkel said work was continuing to resolve the conflict, even if progress had not been as rapid as was hoped.

“Unfortunately progress has been slower than we thought but we are very committed to this process,” she said, adding that there were no plans for a meeting of the leaders from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine to discuss further steps.

More than 6,500 people have been killed in the east since pro-Russian separatists rebelled against the Kiev government after Russia annexed Crimea in response to the ousting of a Moscow-backed president by street protests and his replacement by a pro-Western leadership.

Putin and the leaders of France and Germany on Saturday (August 29) backed efforts to reinstate an effective ceasefire from September 1 in line with a decision by Kiev and rebel representatives last Wednesday (August 26).